John Lewis has ditched the ‘thoughtful giving’ strategy that has underpinned its Christmas campaigns for 14 years in favour of a message about embracing new traditions.
The retailer’s 2023 Christmas ad is the first created by Saatchi & Saatchi, London, which took over the John Lewis and Waitrose advertising account from Adam&eveDDB in May.
The new spot, called Snapper: The Perfect Tree, airs today. It tells the story of a young boy called Alfie who buys a seed thinking that it will grow into a Christmas tree, only for it to become a playfully boisterous Venus flytrap two-sheds tall.
Alfie is disheartened when the plant is moved outside, but when he decides to decamp to his garden to spend Christmas morning with his new friend, his whole family joins him and they celebrate together – Snapper included.
The ad ends with the strapline, Let Your Traditions Grow, which is also the name of the wider campaign.
Tenor Andrea Bocelli provided the ad’s upbeat soundtrack, which is called ‘Festa’ and was adapted from an existing song written by Italian electro-pop duo Le Feste Antonacci.
Rosie Hanley, the marketing director at John Lewis & Partners, said that the goal of the campaign was still to drive brand fame and awareness, as well as boost sales by connecting consideration to conversion.
Every product, including the home furniture, shown in the ad is from John Lewis, and in addition to the hero film, the brand is putting out seven 10-second product spots – also featuring Snapper – that showcase gift ideas, like Nespresso Coffee Machines and Jo Malone fragrances.
Adam&eveDDB created John Lewis’ Christmas ads between 2009 and 2022, turning the retailer’s campaigns into an eagerly-anticipated cultural event, and raising the bar for other advertisers to the extent that the festive period became known as the ‘UK’s Super Bowl moment’.
All of Adam&eveDDB’s Christmas campaigns for John Lewis were built on the proposition that the retailer was ‘the home of thoughtful giving’ because it had such a wide range of high-quality goods that it was the ideal place to buy the perfect present.
Saatchi & Saatchi London won the John Lewis and Waitrose ad account following a competitive pitch that Adam&eveDDB did not take part in. Frankie Goodwin, Saatchi & Saatchi London’s chief creative officer, likened the job of creating the John Lewis’ Christmas ad to ‘taking the reins of a movie franchise’, which required balancing people’s expectations with the desire to deliver on the agency’s own vision.
The new strategy, which was devised by Saatchi & Saatchi, is intended to reflect the fast-moving and sometimes turbulent socio-economic conditions in the UK, with the message that traditions – both old and new – can bring people together and help them find common ground.
It also, according to Hanley, reflects John Lewis’ efforts to change and grow what it offers customers. The John Lewis Partnership (JLP), which owns John Lewis and Waitrose, is in the middle of a turnaround. The so-called ‘partnership plan’ aims to increase profit at the retailer to £400m by investing in digital resources and grocery deliveries, among other things. JLP had intended to complete its turnaround by 2025, but in September it stated that it was going to need another two years to deliver on its target because of ‘inflationary pressures’. JLP made a pre-tax loss of £59m in the first half of the 2023/24 financial year.